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Carlos Segundo Del Castillo is the winner of our EXTRA-LARGE (T-shirt) GRAND PRIZE

How the Game Worked. . . The Alpha-Omega Game, created by our Alpha Master, Jack Dow, revolved around an uncompleted short story. The first part of the story — Jack's "teaser," was posted on the site, and the contest entries — a lot of great story-endings — were submitted by e-mail. The winning entry appears below, and don't miss the great entry that won our Special Judges' Prize.

Came aboard too late for this game? You can still be a winner! Oh Well . . . the extra-large prize was only a t-shirt, after all.

Jack Dow

Domino Down

      IT WAS THE 610,783rd domino, and the final placement in a design that took exactly 178 hours and 33 minutes to set up. Once this last domino was in place, the complex falling action of the dominoes should take about sixteen and a quarter minutes to complete.

     The gym chosen for the event was in a small town in Utah, because therehad never been any sort of earth tremor recorded in that area. There wereno commercial or military flight paths within eighty miles. Motorizedvehicles had not been allowed to drive within fifty yards of thegymnasium. Security guards circled the entire building twenty-four hoursa day to prevent unauthorized approach.

     Six feet away from the interior gymnasium wall, they had constructeda three foot tall plexiglass wall. The outside surface of that wall hadbeen sprayed with a super silicon lubricant that made it too slick foreither mice or cockroaches to climb. Forty five sticky fly strips hungfrom the ceiling and near each door. Everyone in the building was soakedto the bone with sweat, because air conditioners created threatening aircurrents. There were nine television cameras focused on various portionsof the domino-covered gym floor, as well as six slow-motion film cameras.

     Jerry Milligan had financed the entire enterprise on his own. Themillions he had made in software had allowed him to attempt this recorddomino fall to fulfill a dream that had possessed him since he wasnine. He would make a portion of that back in television rights andin advertising, since the design created by the fallen dominoes was amontage of logos of products that his company produced. (That was just aconcession to his board of directors, so that they left him alone duringthe process.)

     He was seconds away from placing the final domino in a design that tookhim three months to design with custom software of his own making. At onepoint, there would be nineteen separate paths of falling dominoes. Twentythree seconds in, twelve small helium-filled balloons would be set freeby the action. Eleven seconds later, twenty tiny micro-explosions wouldbe set off around the parameter, these would also light the fuses thatwere suspended over the huge array. Those fuses met in the middle toset off four more tiny explosions that would begin four more streams offalling dominos.

     Midway through the event, a group of special dominos, containingmicrochips, would be activated by their toppling and begin to play the1812 Overture. Three fourths of the way through the event, a series ofcircus acrobat-like events would take place with dominos flying severalfeet and landing atop devices that flipped other dominos. At the heightof this section, there would be twelve dominos swinging from miniaturetrapezes, six shot out of tiny cannon, and eight jumping through tinyhoops. One minute from the end, a series of specially designed andweighted metal dominos would begin to fall in paths in a manner thatwould create a sound like snare drums and play the drum solo of "Swing,Swing, Swing".

     The finale had nine paths of dominos climbing nine ramps to the edgeof a large water-filled glass tank. At the top of those ramps, the lastdominos would fall into the tank, sink to the bottom and trip levers thatwould open valves that released a quick expanding plastic material thatwould swell and erupt out of the tank like a huge high school volcanoscience project. From a pipe standing in the middle of the glass tankand just high enough to stay uncovered by the expanding foam, a sparklingplume of one last fireworks effect would finish the volcano look.

      All of this would be ready as soon as Jerry set the final domino. Thatfinal domino was less than two centimeters from the wooden surface ofthe gym when . . .

     . . . He awoke abruptly out of his deep sleep. That was it. Why hadn't he seen this before? Jerry Milligan grabbed the notebook off his nighttable and began jotting down what he remembered from the dream he was just having. He wrote quickly and furiously. He knew that if he didn't write everything down quickly he would forget or his mother would make him come down and have breakfast.

     In the thirteen years that he has been on this plane of existence, Jerry has had many detailed dreams that have helped him solve problems that he was stumped on at that moment. He is considered by all, except himself, a genius. He considers himself a normal high school senior, who enjoys doing well in school and challenging himself with problems that others either are not aware of or have given up in solving.

     Right now, he's working on the "SETI problem". He had installed the SETI@HOME client on his computer a couple of weeks ago and his curiosity got the better of him. He began to reverse engineer the software to figure out how it worked and he hit upon something that he found odd.

     The SETI@Home project is scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers to searc for extraterrestrial intelligence. People on the internet install a small client that receives packets of information that are then processed whenever the computer is not being used. These packets are processed to see if there is any messages from space.

     The last couple of weeks, Jerry has been 'researching' the SETI network and how the data created by the millions of computers on the internet finally gets to it's final destination. He found that the packets don't actually go right back to the SETI network once your computer processes them, but actually goes to other computers for more processing (like the dominos in his dream). What he was stuck on was where the final destination for this data was. It appeared that the more and more he dug, the harder it was to get the information. A couple of times he almost gave up. But he knew he wouldn't be able to stay away for too long so he kept at it. He knew that with perserverance he could hack his way into anything.

     But the dream was the key, it gave him the one clue that would help him put the puzzle together. It was the volcano looking glass container with the firework in the middle that set him off. That was the glue that bound all the other clues together. He knew what he needed to do to solve this problem.

     He worked furiously for several hours, the sound of his fingers punching keys on his keyboard would only be interrupted by his yelps of triumph. He was getting closer and closer to the truth.

     Finally he was there, but he could not believe what he was looking at. It was true. It was all true. Area 51, Men in Black (or something like it). Our electronic revolution was all a result of something that —

     He looked at the screen and read the deciphered data he retrieved from the server that was the final destination of all the SETI packets. It was only part of a message, but what it said spoke volumes.

     And as he stared at the screen he heard his mother answering the door and moments later she called to him, "Jerry . . . Jerry honey, there are two gentlemen here to see you."

And there you are. Great Game, Jack! Congratulations, Carlos del Castillo! A job well done!

Ready for more fun? Read the ending that received our Special Judges' Award!

And if you missed this game, don't despair. A new and different writing contest in already under way. Have a look!   You too can win an EXTRA-LARGE (T-shirt) PRIZE!

And don't forget to sample the rest of the E-Zine. Disagree with the Flick Chick, enjoy our other short stories, read our Tips and our trivial news. Then download a good book! Enjoy yourself!

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